The Story of Father Charles M. Menard
The Apostle of Bayou Lafourche
One significant feature of the history of Acadiana was the struggle for practicing the Catholic faith. In 1713, the British captured Acadia and required the Acadians to swear allegiance to the British Crown and convert to Anglicanism from Catholicism. When the Acadians refused to swear allegiance and abandon their Catholic faith, the British exiled them from Nova Scotia. The Acadians eventually established their new home across the southern section of Louisiana as Spain ruled over Louisiana at the time and held sympathy for the Acadians based on their shared Catholic faith. However, the Acadians had to establish Catholic parishes so they may be able to practice their Catholic faith by participating in Mass. The French cleric Father Charles M. Menard would be responsible for aiding in establishing Catholic parishes across Lafourche parish for the Acadians.
In 1842, Fr. Menard worked as a priest at St. Joseph’s in Thibodeaux, and he decided to reform the Catholic faith in Lafourche parish based on the lukewarm faith of his parishioners, where some of his parishioners did not practice their faith well, such as conducting independent baptisms apart from the parish. He helped establish St. Philomena Church in Labadieville, and he helped establish Catholic schools in Thibodeaux, though the schools did not last long. However, the yellow-fever epidemic, a hurricane, and the Civil War deteriorated the Acadians’ Catholic faith. Although it appeared that Fr. Menard’s works were fruitless, many Acadians, especially in Thibodeaux, mourned for him after his death in 1886, showing his impression among them.